by Katie Delp
My kids were born in South Atlanta. It is the only neighborhood they’ve known, and it’s the only one I’ve ever navigated as a mother. As my children keep getting older, I am always asking questions about how to raise them in the city and in the community we call home.
My son is nine years old and last year, he began riding his bike to our neighborhood youth group on his own. Families considering a lifestyle of urban ministry often ask about the freedoms we allow our children. And while every family makes very personal decisions, my husband and I have always felt very strongly that we want our kids to experience some of the same independence we knew in our youth.
So though I do have occasional worries about his safety, I want to be committed to fostering his young independence. One important benefit we’ve witnessed about being present on the streets of our community is being known by our neighbors. As we’ve spent years playing baseball in front of our house, walking to work, and participating in community events, neighbors recognize my son. And they keep an eye out for him when he zips by on his bike.
Another parenting question we have faced throughout the years is the relationships between our own children and neighbor kids. We want to foster positive, nurturing relationships with all our neighbors, including kids. At the same time, we recognize the powerful influence peer relationships can have, especially in these formative years. Here, we have found the neighborhood youth group to be a true gift to our family.
Many of the kids who attend the youth group have tougher stories than our kids. But this unique space is a safe place led by trusted adults for all kids. It’s a positive atmosphere where faith and life is discussed among friends. Youth group has become an opportunity to interact with youth from all walks of life in a safe space. We are grateful for that ministry that helps us raise city kids within thoughtful boundaries.
Of course I want my kids to be safe. There are moments I want to shelter them from all outside influences or any potential danger. But I am convinced that God loves my children more than I do, and we are not called to chase safety at all costs. Instead, we are invited into community, to be known, and to engage those around us. I’m grateful God has brought our family to a neighborhood that allows us to live out these values in tangible ways.